Well, folks. It was fun while it lasted.

As you can see, not much has been happening on this blog lately.

There are several reasons for this, but I will only hit on a couple:

First: It's amazing how much can change in a couple of months--both in our personal lives and on the writing front. A couple of us have signed publishing contracts, and so the need to write, edit, market, promote HAD to take preference over this blog and the services we were providing.

Second: Running this blog, critiquing submissions, providing feedback...well, that's a LOT of dang work. We weren't getting paid for this service. We had a concept and we went with it--for free--not realizing how much time it would involve with very little (nothing) in return for our effort.

Third: Probably the biggest factor that made us come to this decision, was the fact that a good portion of the submissions we received just weren't ready. They needed more revision. We were wanting to give out reviews on AMAZING, fully complete, well edited novels. 90% of what we received didn't come close.

So we've shut it down. We've moved on.

If you liked our comments and our posts, you can check us out on our individual blogs:

Angela Scott: www.whimsywritingandreading.weebly.com or @whimsywriting on twitter or http://www.facebook.com/AngelaScottWriter

D.S. Tracy:

Kacey Mark:

Monday, October 10, 2011

Reading Writing and Competition

Posted by Ready, Aim, Hook Me at 7:48 AM 1 comments
I once heard someone say that getting published in romance was like throwing a hundred women in one room with a chain saw and locking the door. Only the last one standing would make their way out.

I would like to say that's true, even if only for entertainment sake. I'm sure that the conference would be a lot more entertaining to outsiders if we were indeed that vicious. Our attendance numbers would skyrocket! In fact, I'd bet the men would be all lined up and shoveling in the popcorn if it were true. It might even make for great reality TV!

Course the men's mere presence would probably distract the best writers in our genre and we'd loose some valuable heads!
I attended the Utah Heart of the West conference this weekend. Surrounded by throngs of starry-eyed romance authors and only a handful of editors and agents to pitch to.

Believe it or not, we actually behaved ourselves. We practiced pitching together. Gave each other constructive feedback and we had a blast doing it.

There were no hurt feelings--at least that I could tell. And the end result after pitch sessions was nothing but positive if not immense thanks to our peers.

Newcomers to the conference were embraced with open arms. The comedy and the alcohol were free flowing--Shhh! but don't tell anyone. This is the straight-laced state after all. I think there might be some kind of unwritten regulation about boisterous Yauuups! and laughter that late at night.

The only tension I found at conference was my own. Shaking like a leaf in front of the entire lunchon as I presented this year's Heart of the West Writing contest winners. And what an honor!

When I read out the names, those winners in attendance were cheered and congratulated without restraint!

True, the road to publication can be much like a game of roulette. There's a chance you may publish and a chance you may not, but I can say that the women at the URWA will work hard with each other, through strength and support, to get there.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Spray it! Don't Say It!

Posted by Ready, Aim, Hook Me at 7:58 PM 4 comments
Word choice is huge when it comes to writing. In one of the Reluctant Hook’er’s posts, she did her best to convince us that even the first word is important. Some may agree, and others won’t. I know someone who would agree—pre-Katie Holmes era.

At a recent writer’s convention, the Reluctant Hook’er and I wandered from class to class in our best Hook’er shoes and listened to published writer’s on various topics. One of the things that stuck out the most, besides one ladies’ Richard Simmon’s Style Hot Pink Sparkly mess of a hat, was making sure writing is show not tell.

So what was it about Tom Cruise’s “you had me at hello”? I know it was a movie but one of the most important things to do with your words is to make us forget we are reading, make us see it—like a movie.

Right before this scene, the show-me-the-money guy made his career with a great catch and a little dance. As cameras surrounded him, he took a call from his wife. We had already seen the couple’s relationship contrasted throughout the movie. Cuba and his wife loved each other. They kissed, pawed at each other, and fought with passion, all the while, Jerry and Bridget Jones exchanged awkward glances and feigned affection.

 Jerry Maguire watched his client break down as he spoke to his wife. Jer had seen the love and devotion before. Only this time, he knew what he needed to do. We knew it too. It was a look. It was in his actions. The moment would not have been the same if he said, “I finally realize what I need to do. I need to go to go tell my wife she completes me.”

I know that sounds ridiculous and something you would never do in your writing, but I see it so many times. It’s called R.U.E. and if you’ve read my blog before you’ve probably seen it pop up. Resist The Urge To Explain in your writing. Don’t sell your reader short. We aren’t totally stupid. We get things. We can read between the lines.

Show us the need Jerry has for his wife, make us believe it, before the scene above even happens. We need the experience. We need to forget we’re reading a book. We need to root him on, still wondering if he’ll do what’s right.

So, let’s test your knowledge. Which of the following sentences is telling and which are showing?

1.    1. “I like your hat,” she said sarcastically.

2.    2.  My mind stirred with trepidation.

3.    3.  I saw the look in his eyes and I knew he wanted me.

4.    4.  The jagged pieces of broken glass reminded me of my father, unapproachable and dangerous.

5.    5. The crisp evening bit at my cheeks, freezing my tears, it was then I knew I’d always be alone.

Show me your skills if you want. Rewrite any of the sentences you think are telling. Show me the money.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Writing Pet Peeve #1

Posted by Ready, Aim, Hook Me at 6:32 AM 8 comments

I don't like questions. Not on query letters. Not on book descriptions on Amazon or on back cover book blurbs. I especially don't like characters asking internal questions either.

You're probably wondering what I'm talking about, so let me give you a couple of examples:

From a book cover: He must win her love to save her life, but will he be able to convince her that he's her one true love before it's too late? Umm...should I care? Because I don't. I don't even know the guy. He could be a total jerk. Maybe she's better off without him. 

From a query letter: Will she find her mother? Will her mother accept her now that she knows the truth? What will happen to Clara if her mother rejects her again? **** is a story about a mother/daughter relationship....yada, yada, yada 

Narrative: Did she think she could calm the babe when none of the experienced Puritan matrons could? 'Twas not a punishable offense to offer one's aid, was it? Of what consequence was the woman's pride when the babe's life was in jeopardy? Was she listening to his hungry wails, her heart breaking as she watched him starve to death? I ran all these questions together even though this is not how it is presented in the book--but these questions are found within four consecutive pages. That's far too many. This particular book was littered with internal questions.  It kept pulling me, as a reader, out of the urgency of the situation by making me come up with answers. Reading shouldn't be a test.
The problem with posing questions is that as a writer, you've taken the situation and reduced it's urgency. You are now asking the reader to "fill in the blanks" and most likely the answers you are hoping for won't be the ones you actually get. 

Never underestimate the power of a STATEMENT. Every one of those questions could have been reworked and turned into  statement that would have been far more powerful than any question ever could be. AND readers gravitate to powerful writing as well as agents and editors (take a a look at Query Shark and her reactions to query letters that pose questions as a means to hook the reader--she's not too fond of them).

So if you think that by posing a question in your book description on Amazon will hook your readers into buying it, or if you think adding rhetorical questions in a query letter will lure the agent into requesting a partial, you may want to think again. I am only one person, but I know I'm not alone when I say, rhetorical questions don't hook me--they turn me off from what could very well be a wonderful story.

Also, check out your manuscript where your characters are posing internal questions (questions they are thinking but not speaking out loud) and read that section--most likely you will find that there is more power to the writing by simply removing them all together. If you feel the question is helpful or necessary, why not try reworking it into a statement:

He must win her love to save her life, but he will need to convince her that he's her one true love before it's too late.

Now that her mother knows her past, Clara is afraid her mother will reject her again.  

She hoped she'd have the ability to calm the babe despite knowing the other Puritan matrons could not. 
(Okay, these aren't the best rewritten, but bear with me. Hopefully you can see what I was trying for).

So, the next time you see a writer pose a question, or you're thinking of writing one, ask yourself: Did this question produce the response the writer was hoping for? Did the question add to the narrative or distract? <---These questions are for discussion purposes, which is the action I'm hoping for :) Tell me what you think. I'd love to know.

Angela Scott
The Reluctant Hook'er

Monday, October 3, 2011

So Who are You Going to Be This Year?

Posted by Ready, Aim, Hook Me at 7:02 AM 1 comments
Browsing through the endless collection of Halloween costumes this year, I found myself wondering exactly what kind of Halloween celebrationist I am--and no, celebrationist isn't really a word, but go with me on this.

I figure the Halloween scale must run from Pruney-faced, dress-up fuddy-duddy, to costume awesomealist.

And you remember the awesomealist. Those that make Halloween costume history by getting into full character and most likely annoying the hell out of everyone around them. They make a major statement and are difficult to forget.

I'll readily admit that can be both a good and a bad thing.

Me? I figure I must be somewhere in the middle. I dress up every year. I pick on friends and coworkers until they dress up too, but the end result is only semi-enthusiastic.  I get that dopey tone in my voice when someone asks. "Now what are you supposed to be?"

Which by the way, must go down as an epic Halloween fail in my book. If you have to explain your costume, it isn't a costume. It's a candy-melted-mistake. You know, like the little candy corn blob that went terribly wrong in production.

As a writer I feel that I put myself into different perspectives all the time.
But like my costumes, am I only going in semi-enthusiastic mode?
It's an easy gear to slip into when your audience is on your mind. Or when you have to pitch your book in public.

During last year's URWA writer's retreat I attended, we were encouraged to take masks with us to the keyboard. A way to put aside the outside world and be someone else jabbing the keys. It works pretty well too.

So let's hear it. How are things going? Let's open a forum to see just how well our writer friends are fairing at the keyboard. Who's dressing up, and how's it working for you?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Go to your home!

Posted by Ready, Aim, Hook Me at 9:39 AM 0 comments

Everyone has their home. Mine happens to be in the majestic Cache Valley. Where farm animals still graze on the outskirts and that small town mentality reigns supreme.  Where everywhere I turn, I find a story about the time I nearly wrecked your car, or kissed my first boy. I could go on and on.

There are locations too, like The Blue Bird restaurant, where they still make their own chocolate and gleaming, fifty-style soda dispensers crane over the edge of the bar.

That place has hosted countless prom dates gussied and gleaming for their big night—so has First Dam for that matter. It’s the most famous make out spot in town. Where fuming father’s pull their daughters from back seats, and a twinge of familiarity hits them. Not only for the coveted parking spot, but for the look of fear on the young man’s face.

One of my close friends told me this weekend. “Everybody who leaves Cache Valley always comes back.”
I kept expecting the maniacal laughter and wringing hands to follow. They didn’t.

Because he was right. It’s not always the family ties that bind us there either. There’s some kind of magnetic pull that draws us back to our homes.

Make sure you remember that, dear readers. Those basic everyone’s-my-neighbor feelings are present for everyone in some form or another.  It could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on our character’s past, but a great source of conflict either way. It's a great way to hook your reader

Friday, September 23, 2011

Pimped Paragraph #5

Posted by Ready, Aim, Hook Me at 6:41 AM 4 comments
(Your comments are welcomed and highly encouraged. The author of this first paragraph submission is looking for all the constructive criticism they can receive to improve their opening hook.  Do you agree with us Hook'ers? Disagree? Were you hooked and would want to read more? Let this author know).

ORIGINAL SUBMISSION (Genre: Adult Fantsy):
Villeen’s father should’ve murdered her eldest brother.  Now… now she’d have to finish it.  She clenched her eyes shut, unable to look at the heap of rags in the corner.  Pale flesh peaked from the half-shredded brown robes.  The corner of a book dug into her breast, but she ignored the pain, only clutching it tighter, wishing she’d found it earlier.

Angela Scott:
Villeen’s father should’ve murdered her eldest brother.  Now… now (Not sure you need to echo this--I'd almost like a clarification, something along the lines of: Because he didn't, now she'd have to finish it. Does that make sense?) she’d have to finish it.  She clenched her eyes shut, unable to look at the heap of rags in the corner.  Pale flesh peaked from the half-shredded brown robes (I like this image--just be careful not to add to many modifiers).  The corner of a book dug into her breast, but she ignored the pain, only clutching it tighter, wishing she’d found it earlier.

I like how this begins. You've tossed us into some type of action, that is for sure. I'd read on. I do wish I had a better sense of of her feelings toward her brother. She clentched her eyes so I assume she doesn't want to kill him, yet the first couple of lines leave me thinking maybe he needed to be killed and she wants to kill him. The first line is a pretty good opener, too.

D.S. Tracy:
Villeen’s father should’ve murdered her eldest brother.  Now… now she’d have to finish it.  She clenched her eyes shut, (can't clench them open, can you?) unable to look at the heap of rags in the corner.  Pale flesh peaked from the half-shredded brown robes. (I wonder if you could just get rid of one of these. I paused for a moment, here. I got it, but for a split second I did pause with the rags vs. robes) The corner of a book dug into her breast, but she ignored the pain, only clutching it tighter, wishing she’d found it earlier. (This sentence needs some work. Besides some modifier issues, it is a bit weak)

This has mystery and I like that. I think you definitely need to work on it a bit more. Make sure your word choices are spot on. Clench and clutch sound too similar. They are great verbs, but too close and would alter the sound of the piece. Same goes for rags vs. robes. The second line makes it read a bit like a back of blurb sentence. I'm not a fan of ellipses used for drama. It is artificial. Don't force me to feel a dun, dun, dun moment--just show me, make me feel the dun, dun, dun all on my own. Resist the urge to explain, or resist the urge to dot, dot, dot. I think you're off to a good start by creating intrigue. Fiddle with the wording a bit more. I'm interested, but not convinced.  Thanks for sharing. 

Kacey Mark:

Villeen’s father should’ve murdered her eldest brother. <Excellent hook. Good job. I get the sense of a couple important characters, a conflict, and a hint of history all rolled into one.> Now… now <You may want to rethink this. Using words like "now" pulls the reader out of the story. The reader thinks they are already in the here and now. When you use words like "now" it distracts and makes them question the timeline of the story> she’d have to finish it.  She clenched her eyes shut, unable to look at the heap of rags in the corner. <Great visceral, good emotion, love the conflict. so someone's in a heap of rags in the corner. That's interesting! Good, good, good.One question though... I can't seem to get my head around this stranger in rags in the corner. Is it a baby? A full grown man? Please let us know.> Pale flesh peaked from the half-shredded brown robes.<Okay so we've moved from rags to robes, which in my mind have upped his social status. Just sayin'...Moving along...>  The corner of a book dug into her breast, <Okay where did the book come from? I would have expected her to have a knife or a gun, or a club-something to finish the guy off with, unless the book holds spells, which would be cool> but she ignored the pain, only clutching it tighter, wishing she’d found it earlier. <So finding the book was the goal? I thought finishing Villeen off was the goal. Now I'm a little confused.>

Try not to let all the color on my critique fool you. I really liked this piece. And it's not really red ink anyway it's salmon. Sort of a struggle-upstream-to-deliver-your-legacy kind of color. See, now doesn't it sound so much better that way?
This first paragraph has a lot of good things going for it. It got a little confusing at the end as to what the real goal was, but overall, I like it. I would for sure read on!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Why your first paragraph is SO important

Posted by Ready, Aim, Hook Me at 8:22 AM 7 comments

As I mentioned last week, D.S Tracy and I went to a writer's convention over the past weekend. During the Saturday luncheon, there was a panel of editors and agents who read what was called the "First Page Slush Pile" while we ate our meals. These first pages came from those sitting in the audience. No names were revealed.

One at a time, a first page was pulled from the pile and one of the editors would start reading out loud to the whole crowd (several hundred people). Pretty daring, if I might add. 
As the piece was being read, if the remaining panel of editors and agents liked it, they kept their hands down and the reader would go on. If they didn't like it, they would raise their hand at the place where they, personally, would have rejected it. Once all the agents and editors hands were in the air, the reader stopped reading.

Not one piece that was presented made it to the end of the first page. EVERY piece was rejected. Some were rejected by the editors and agents half way through. Others were rejected on the VERY FIRST WORD. Others didn't even get passed the first paragraph. 

The agents and editors were tough, BUT they explained why those pieces didn't work--too many adverbs, too many adjectives, describing the setting or scene WAY TOO LONG, not jumping into the action right away, there was nothing to hook them to keep reading. 

As I sat there listening, I agreed with the agents and editors on all accounts. Most of the submissions were boring, describing the color of the male characters eyes or what the weather was. Others sitting near me were getting FURIOUS. They were not happy at all by what appeared as coldness and cruelty the agents and editors expressed toward these works. 

One lady was even so bold as to challenge the panel. She thought it was unfair that the agents and editors rejected these pieces of "art" so quickly. She said sometimes it takes 30 pages before the story picks up and she would NEVER reject a story without reading the first three chapters. Boy was she mad (you could see it written all over her face and in the tone of her words). It was a pretty tense moment for sure. 

The agents and editors went on to explain just how many query letters come across their desk in a year--thousands, folks. Thousands. And this is in addition to the regular work they are expected to complete each day as well (dealing with their already signed clients, contacting publishers and editors, etc . . .) They explained that YES, sometimes they reject a manuscript based on the first paragraph. It's that fast. It's that quick. Sometimes that's all the time they have. And because they've done this so long, they can usually tell by the end of a first page if the novel is worth their time to read on. 

Cold. Hard. Cruel. But it is the reality. 

That's why it is SO important to make your first paragraph, your first page, your first chapter the very best it can be. You are competing against a whole lot of other writers out there who want the same thing as you. 

One gentleman on the panel (not an agent or editor, but a well-known author) even went on to say (paraphrasing here): "It's your first word that will hook an agent/editor to read the first sentence. It's the first sentence that will buy you the first paragraph and the first paragraph that will buy you the first page." 

Very true. It was never made so clear to me as watching that panel of agents and editors destroy the hopes of those individuals who submitted their first pages. 

We here at Ready, Aim, Hook Me have been "preaching" this concept since the very beginning when we started this blog--can you hook us with your first line, first paragraph, and so on. We didn't just make this up to torture you. I promise. We just know the realities of what you're up against.

Is it fair to be judged so quickly? No not at all. It's completely unfair. I will agree with you on that. 

Is it going to change? Nope. Agents and editors will reject you based simply on how your first paragraph reads. They will. I saw it in person. 

So you better darn well make your first word, first line, first paragraph, first page stand out--in a good way. 

~The Reluctant Hook'er

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Stories that Haunt Us

Posted by Ready, Aim, Hook Me at 6:55 AM 3 comments
Hello all. Rabbit in a Hat Hook'er here.

Fall is coming. Our fair state of Utah has that lingering chill that lasts throughout the day. The leaves are beginning to change around their edges.

Its the perfect time to start thinking ghost stories.

Just for now, let's put aside all judgment about whether or not ghosts actually exist. Let's welcome in early fall with an open mind while I introduce you to my pint-sized poltergeist, Emily.

Little Emily has been a mainstay in my life ever since I became a mother. She just kind-of added herself to my brood and remains underfoot even to this day.

The most interesting thing I find about her, is that she doesn't haunt one single building or plot of land. She haunts me. Much like the characters running around in our heads, I can't seem to escape her. Not that I've really tried. She's pretty harmless with the exception of a bouncy ball or two thunked off the top of my head.
My children seemed the first to recognize her presence. They were nervous about going into their playroom--as children often are about large, oddly shaped rooms. At first, I didn't think anything of it. But when my two-year-old announced there was a "ghosss in there" I was a surprised. I didn’t even think she knew what a ghost was!
Toys would sound off in the middle of the night, and of course it always had to be the ones with voices or animal noises. Why my little ghostie doesn’t appreciate simple building blocks or baby dolls, I’ll never know.

My first visual encounter happened during a little game of hide and seek. I entered my youngest daughter's room to find the closet door cracked open. The lights off. I pushed the door open wide to the sight of a little girl with shoulder-length, dark hair. Her head bowed and an Awe-you-found-me look on her face. The first thought that sprang to my mind was, This is not my child!  I jumped. My heart jumped too, right into my throat. But before I could even take a step back, she was gone!

It wasn't until I spent a few months at my sisters house, that I discovered Emily's fascination with me. My sister walked into her living room where I was sleeping on floor, and found a small girl perched on the sofa. Staring down at me! My sister told me later,

"At first I thought it was my daughter, just as I was about to tell her to go back to bed and leave aunt Kacey alone, she disappeared. I told my husband, 'I think our house guest has a house guest.'"

Could Emily be only a figment of my imagination? Maybe. Maybe not. But I will tell you one thing. Much like the characters running around in our heads, Emily won't be going away any time soon. Her story must be told.

I'll be lurking around the blog all day today. Feel free to ask any questions you have about Emily, and feel free to share any stories of your own!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Skeptical Hook'er's Corner: Blog Feature

Posted by Ready, Aim, Hook Me at 9:24 PM 2 comments

I loved what Michael Offutt from SLC Kismet had to say on his Thursday blog: Understanding Men To Write Fiction.

I found myself nodding my head, agreeing with absolutely everything he said. I’ve read a lot of submissions on our blog, written by women, in a male’s p.o.v. It’s great to try that, however, not everyone can jump in a fella’s head—unless you’re a fella.

I’ve had male friends all my life, best friends. I’ve hung out with them, drank beer, fished, whatever, and no matter how much I’d like to think I know what it’s like in the male brain, I’m wrong. If I’m writing something strictly for a female audience, women can get away with writing how we think a man is, but when it comes to writing for the larger audience, we need to make sure we aren’t creating an “Edward”.

I think women like to think they know exactly how a man might act or say, but we really don’t have a clue. Michael mentions Twilight and why it resonated so much with young women and not men. I couldn’t agree more. I hated Edward and just because Jacob had a bizzillion abs, didn’t make him any more masculine in my eyes.

I don’t want to tell you too much about Michael’s blog because I want you to go out and read it yourself. I think he’s spot on and for female writers looking to develop their male characters more, go over and snatch a nugget or two of what he has to say.

I laughed a bit as I read his post because I recently had an experience I knew I had to blog about. I was lucky enough to step into a new world recently and for the love of chocolate and peanut butter ice cream, please don’t make me go back.

The laundry mat is a horrible place filled with weird “after fuzz” and questionable remnants of the load before yours that make me shudder still. After our washer died, I loaded my sorted clothes into several washers, making sure blacks were with blacks and whites were with whites. I measured my soap and let ‘er rip. Meanwhile, a young kid comes in with a laundry hamper. He grabs one arm full of clothes and stuffs it in one washer, dumps some soap in and moves on to the next. He doesn’t bother to sort, measure the soap, or anything. He just does his business and that’s that.

I catch a glance from another mom from across the room, our scowls of horror. How could he? Doesn’t he know how to do laundry? Didn’t his mother teach him?

I blamed it on his youth and left it at that, and then Mr. Tight Pants came strolling through the door. He lugged in black garbage bags of clothes and I couldn’t wait to see what he’d do. He was a contradiction first of all, with his well-pressed duds and yard bags. He looked good, so naturally he cared, right? He wasn’t going to integrate his clothes, right? Please? Nope. He grabbed one handful after the next, overstuffing the washer, plopped a dab of soap in, and walked out.

My head whipped around to the fellow mom in the room; we exchange a wtf sort of look. Then, lucky me, another dude came strolling in. I hadn’t seen him earlier, he had already stuffed his washers full of nonsense and was ready to fold his clothes. He grabbed a rolling cart and opened the dryer, pulling out whites, reds, blues, blacks, a rainbow of colors. He didn’t bother folding his clothes; he put them in his own garbage bag and left the mat.

I’m not suggesting that all men don’t separate their laundry, it’s just a lesson to show that just because someone does or thinks one way, doesn’t mean it holds true. We are two vastly different groups of people. And that’s okay. I like it that way. It makes things interesting. 

Do you think you got a handle on the opposite sex in your writing? Do you agree with Michael?

Pimped Paragraph #4

Posted by Ready, Aim, Hook Me at 5:06 AM 4 comments
(Your comments are welcomed and highly encouraged. The author of this first paragraph submission is looking for all the constructive criticism they can receive to improve their opening hook.  Do you agree with us Hook'ers? Disagree? Were you hooked and would want to read more? Let this author know).

ORIGINAL SUBMISSION (Genre: Young Adult Fantasy):
I walked out onto a beach where I hadn’t set foot in forty-seven years. As I felt the smooth roundness of the small, chilly grains of sand shuffle gently beneath my feet, I felt a rush of excitement shoot through my body.

Angela Scott:
I walked out onto a beach where I hadn’t set foot in forty-seven years. As I felt the smooth roundness of the small, chilly grains of sand shuffle gently beneath my feet, I felt a rush of excitement shoot through my body.

I will say, that even though there are some minor issues with this opening paragraph, so far of the four we've presented on this blog, this is the only one that would perhaps intrigue me to read on. Something is actually happening here. The other three were pretty generic. Now, that saying, this paragraph is coated quite heavy in modifiers (the blue). Sometimes, less can be more. Also, the use of the phrase "I felt" needs to be looked at again. Is there another way to say this? Show this? Especially in the last line? I think if you played with that last line, show me a smile on his face (I assume it's a guy. At least that's what I pictured) or a chill run up the spine--something. That will give me the same effect, and lets the reader know this character is excited without using the phrase "I felt". Just a suggestion. 

Kacey Mark:
I walked out onto a beach where I hadn’t set foot in forty-seven years. I like this line. It brings the reader right into the story with a sense of time and place, even the age of the main character. It also holds a bit of a hook. Why has it been so long since our character set foot here? As I felt the smooth roundness of the small, chilly grains of sand shuffle gently beneath my feet, I felt a rush of excitement shoot through my body. This sentence felt a bit long but you've got some great sensory and visceral reactions there. Good job! And I agree with Angela, if you're in deep character point of view (POV) you don't really need to say "I felt" if you take out "As I felt" you'll notice that your sentence works perfectly without it and you inch closer to deep POV.
Keep going! You're off to a great start!

D.S. Tracy:
I walked out onto a beach where I hadn’t set foot in forty-seven years. As I felt the smooth roundness of the small, chilly grains of sand shuffle(d) gently beneath my feet; I felt a rush of excitement shoot through my body.

I agree about the "I felt" that is actually one of my pet peeves. Most of the time it is unnecessary and can be deleted just like I showed. I don't think I'd do it like I did with the semi-colon, it needs to have a fluidity about it and a semi-colon is too much of a pause. Work with the sentence a bit, keeping the sensory in there and the tone. I think this is a nice start. I'm not totally sold, but first graphs are a pain in the arse and take a long time to get just right. BUT, because of the tone and sensory details, I'd read on. 

I'm not sure "shuffled" is the right word, I get what you mean with "gently" paired to it, but it needs to go. Shuffled alone, doesn't seem soft enough. Keep playing with it. Word choice is very important. The least amount, yet more descriptive words, lead to tight writing. Walked, for instance is a bit generic, doesn't really tell me much about her. It is okay, but something to think about.  

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

It's that Time of Year! Writer's Retreat!

Posted by Ready, Aim, Hook Me at 5:15 AM 1 comments
It's that time of year again, and BOY and I excited! It's the I'm-going-away-for-the-weekend-meeting-up-with-D.S. Tracy-and-having-a-blast-at-a-writer's-convention-retreat!

If you've never been to a writer's convention, I highly suggest you look into doing so. Every state offers them, you just need to know where to look. Yes, some can be a bit pricey, but the valuable information you gleam from these conventions, not to mention the contact you make with other writers, will be well worth the cost.

Some of the one hour long classes that will be offered at our particular convention are:

Problem, the Core of the Story
Dialogue, It's not just People Talking
Horror and Dark Fantasy Writing
Writing the West (HELLO--zombie, western romance by yours truly)
Voice and Style
The Creative Process, Coming up with Story Ideas the Rock
Writing Action
Don't Tell Your Story, Show it (Isn't that what we're always saying)
Pacing, and Writing at the Speed of Life

There are actually several other classes offered as well, not to mention the speakers and the opportunity you have to sign up to pitch your work to editors and agents. You WILL walk away having learned something new to apply to your own work.

Conventions allow you to surround yourself with other like-minded people who LOVE doing the same thing you LOVE to do--write. You can build a network of friends, find critique buddies (I did), and generally have an amazing time.

Any chance I have to get away from my family for a few days and learn more about the craft makes me one happy camper. And no matter what stage of the writing process you are in--whether new to writing, have been writing for decades, or even have a few published works under your belt--you WILL learn something. Guaranteed.

I'm going with D.S. and I'm certain I will have a great time (That lady is one crazy chic--super fun).

Next week, we'll share some of the things we've gleamed from the convention and pass it on to you.

Have you been to a writers convention or workshop? What do you thing? Worth your time or waste of space?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Infusing your sentences with sensory part one: Smell

Posted by Ready, Aim, Hook Me at 6:33 AM 4 comments
Morning all! Rabbit in a Hat Hook'er here.

I've mentioned my weakness for cupcakes before. A weakness enabled by my Master Cupcake Chief sister. She’s got my number and she knows it too! Anything she wants, she gets, so long as there are those paper-wrapped cakelets of evil in her hand.

I'm sure it must have something to do with their innocent, little portion size and that swirl of confectionery yumminess she calls frosting, but my brain has latched onto them. Now I can detect them from a mile away.
But it seems that I've taken my cupcake weakness to a whole new level...

Now I'm even wearing them.

On days when the sissy's not baking up a storm, I still get my fix with a soothing Cupcake lotion I found at Walmart. Eat your heart out Bath and Body, cause this stuff is awesome Aaaand  I can afford it too!
 I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to hear that food scented products like lotion are contributing to our nation's obesity epidemic. If you're wearing it for eight hours straight, the temptation is constantly under your nose. 

Our sense of smell is pretty darn powerful, and it shapes the way we experience everything. 

Every time we meet someone new, walk into a room, or step outside, our noses are there to investigate. To really pull readers into our writing, the sense of smell is essential. Its a great way to incorporate all the other senses as well.

  • If a scent is so strong, it burns your character's eyes and makes them water.
  • If it makes the character's tummy rumble.
  • Or makes them want to toss their cookies.
 You've just Incorporated multiple senses, leading with the sense of smell, and offered your reader something to associate with. Give it a try!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Sweet Dreams

Posted by Ready, Aim, Hook Me at 9:17 PM 1 comments
A little yawn, a rub of the eyes, and my little one’s ready for bed, despite his best efforts to convince me otherwise. I know for both of us, he needs to climb up to bed and snuggle into his race car sheets and wind down, leaving the troubles and fun of the day behind.

My daughter isn’t as easy as that. She’s nearly four years older and scared of her own shadow. She’s had more bad dreams than anyone I’ve met. We’ve tried Monster Spray, Dreamcatchers, MP3 player, everything and anything to let her mind release whatever torment it holds. It’s exhausting and disheartening to see fear in such impressionable eyes.

Since my daughter was old enough to understand, I’ve told her stories to ease her worries and insert colorful images into her head. I think most of us have grown up with bedtime stories and goodnight kisses, maybe that’s where a writer’s love for words and make-believe comes from. It did for me. I remember hanging on to each and every word, and after my mom turned out the light, I would cinch my eyes and find my way back to whatever adventure she created. There were times when I didn't want to wake up. 

My kids are obsessed with cats. So to send them off to dreamland, away from monsters and bad thoughts, I give them Jingle Bells.  

Jingle Bells is a curious cat—surprise, surprise—with an affection for my kids and whole lot of trouble. So far Jingle Bells has followed them to school, rode the bus, gone to the crash up derby, and even donned roller skates. He wears a little bell around his neck and as soon as my kids hear his little Jingle they know it's time to have fun. It's not the most creative of stories, in fact, I'm sure it's a walking cliche, but seeing the looks in my children's eyes tells me differently.

Rambling on by the seat of my pants has never been more joyful as it is when story time comes around. I think we are so caught up in editing, writing, critiquing, and blogging we often lose sight of our number one audience. I may never see joy in my reader’s eyes like I do when I’m talking about Jingle Bells. A four or five star review is fantastic, but not the same as seeing my kids ecstatic about a story, we created together. 

So, stepping away from your w.i.p.s and finished ‘scripts, I want to hear about your bedtime traditions. Do you have a favorite story you read or tell to your kids? Or do you have memories from childhood of someone planting the seeds of adventure with the simple string of words, “once upon a time . . .”? 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Examples of Awesome First Paragraphs

Posted by Ready, Aim, Hook Me at 7:24 AM 6 comments
It’s easy to see when an opening paragraph doesn’t work. We’ve had several examples on our blog of first paragraphs that didn’t quite hit the mark—not that they were bad, just that they could have been better with a little bit of tweaking.  (You can see our past posts on Pimping Your Paragraph #1, #2, and #3). 

But today, I want to talk about GREAT opening paragraphs and what made them stand out. Hopefully by reading a few of these, it will spark your imagination and give you some fresh ideas on reworking your own first paragraph. 

The first example is from a novel called “The Girls” by Lori Lansens. Here is the opening paragraph: 

I have never looked into my sister’s eyes. I have never bathed alone. I have never stood in the grass at night and raised my arms to a beguiling moon. I’ve never used an airplane bathroom. Or worn a hat. Or been kissed like that. I’ve never driven a car. Or slept through the night. Never a private talk. Or solo walk. I’ve never climbed a tree. Or faded into a crowd. So many things I’ve never done, but oh, how I’ve been loved. And, if such things were to be, I’d live a thousand lives as me, to be loved so exponentially.

When you read this, what does it make you think? Who could this person be—a person who has never worn a hat? Does that little detail even make a difference? Should it? To never bathe alone, how is that even possible? 

Is this paragraph perfect? I don’t know. But it does leave me with a curiosity, and desire to read the next paragraph to find out more about this person. (This just so happens to be a story about conjoined twins, connected at the head).

Here is another example from “The Lovely Bones” by Alice Seabold:

My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973. In newspaper photos of missing girls from the seventies, most looked like me: white girls with mousy brown hair. This was before kids of all races and genders started appearing on milk cartons or in the daily mail. It was still back when people believed things like that didn’t happen.

Wow. For me, that is a humdinger of an opening paragraph. The character is introduced; the setting and time understood; the problem clearly defined. I’m hooked.

A third example, “Skinny Dip” by Carl Hiaasen:

At the stroke of eleven on a cool April night, a woman named Joey Perone went overboard from a luxury deck of a cruise liner M.V. Sun Duchess. Plunging toward the dark Atlantic, Joey was too dumbfounded to panic. I married an asshole, she thought, knifing headfirst into the waves. 

Hello! That is good stuff. Again, is it written perfectly? I don’t know. It’s a bit telling, but it works. BOOM! You’ve got a woman falling overboard, and you know her husband had something to do with it. I read this book quite a while ago, but I found myself reading the first page again, refreshing my memory, and LOVING it! I couldn’t help it. The paragraphs that follow this opening one are fantastic as well. I bit on that hook, and now I must read on. 

My last example is from “The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedon” by Slavomir Rawicz:

It was nine o’clock one bleak November day that the key rattled in the heavy lock of my cell in the Lubyanka Prison and the two broad-shouldered guards marched purposefully in. I had been walking slowly round, left hand in the now characteristic prisoner’s attitude of supporting the top of the issue trousers, which Russian ingenuity supplied without buttons or even string on the quite reasonable assumption that a man preoccupied with keeping up his pants would be severely handicapped in attempting to escape. I had stopped pacing at the sound of the door opening and was standing against the far wall as they came in. One stood near the door, the other took two or three strides in. “Come,” he said. “Get moving.”

Again, the setting is clearly defined. The situation apparent. And when the guards say, Come. Get moving. I want to know where they’re going. I figure it can’t be good. 

As you look over your first paragraph, ask yourself this question: If I read only this tiny little bit, would I want to read on? 

Make sure your first paragraph pulls the reader in. Give them a taste of what they can expect. 

If your opening is boring or jumbled, that is what your reader will figure the rest of the book will be—and it just might keep them from reading on.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Special Delivery: Giving readers What They Expect

Posted by Ready, Aim, Hook Me at 11:07 PM 1 comments
Happy morning to you all. Rabbit in a Hat Hooker here. Now that I have snagged your attention with an adorably hypnotic puppy picture, I shall commence.

So writers,

You know that long awaited knock on your front door? The one that makes your entire day because your special delivery has finally arrived? It could be all your online Christmas orders, or those shoes you just couldn't find anywhere else, or even the hulking delivery man himself (carrying a box of puppies of course).

Bottom line, you're totally stoked, because you're about to get what you've been waiting for!

Cracking open a book isn't much different for our readers. They form certain expectations when choosing what to read, and they look forward to those things. Much like those tender souls who thought this blog was about puppies. Yeah, I know. I've got a little touch of meanie in there for tricking you, but I'm making a point, honest.

Is your package handled with care?
As authors, we have precious little opportunity to snag a reader's interest for the initial purchase, but the work doesn't end there. Authors must keep delivering what their readers expect or they may suffer rejection. Much like me and my puppy-pimping tactics. I can almost feel the gravitational pull as throngs of readers click away.

But what about the box it comes in?
You may know by now that authors don't often get to choose their packaging. Book covers are made with great consideration an input, but the art work is often not our own. Our job comes in the writing, and we must set expectations from page one.

Fair writers, please don't get me wrong. A little surprise every now and then can be a good thing, but let's make "little" the operative word. make sure if your reader ordered a pizza, you deliver a pizza. Not a box of puppies. Or a puppy pizza because that's just gross.

And don't forget to deliver on time.
If your hook comes too late, or your climax hits too early, your reader may suffer disappointment. Like when those flashy new Christmas toys come without batteries, or your hunky delivery man keeps vying for your brother. Or the box of puppies drank too much water during the trip to your door.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Guest Blogger: The Stories We Tell

Posted by Ready, Aim, Hook Me at 9:17 PM 3 comments
Thanks to my guest blogger, Elisabeth from ECWrites for subbing for me today. She's about to release The Golden Sky in November, which is a heartbreaking and endearingly funny look through the eyes of a young mother as she loses her son to birth defects. I thought she could talk a little bit about why she leans toward nonfiction, specifically Memoir. I've heard it been said that we all have a story in us somewhere, and if you've been to Elisabeth's blog, you'll know she has more than enough stories for all of us.

~The Skeptical Hook'er

    For me, writing is like growing up--it's just something you do.  I write early, every morning.  Whether I'm having a hard time, or a good time, I write no matter what.  It isn't about how much other people like my words, or even what they evoke for them.  No, writing is about expressing my passion and life.  Maybe my loved ones will have those words to remember me by when I'm gone.  I sure hope so.  But for now, the simple act of writing is enough.
    Everyone has a story to tell, something they see distinctly through a special perception.  A good writer can take any moment in life, put it on paper and make it something wonderful for the reader.  It's not the experience per se, but rather how the experience is conveyed that makes it relevant.

    For example, when detectives investigate a crime scene, every witness will describe things a bit differently.  If everyone explains the scenario exactly the same, the authorities will know it's a lie.
    Last week I went to a baby shower with a writing friend.  We had a great time, but for the most part, it was a normal shower.  It became so ordinary, we decided to write about our experiences.  
    Both of us noticed entirely different things.  I couldn't pull my eyes from the woman with the sparkly dress and the powdered nose.  She smiled with genuine delight although from the design of her collar, I would have pegged her for a stuffy seamstress.  My friend decided to write about the dog, a playful fellow who kept nibbling her feet.  Through those two experiences, I found the whole scenario quite exciting amidst the booties, carrots and tea.  
    It wasn't the baby shower itself that made our stories so interesting, but rather the little details which told more about how we viewed our own surroundings.

    Do you ever write non-fiction?  If so, what do your words display about your perception of the world?

    For more information on ECwrites, click here:  
EC Writes

Pimped Paragraph #3

Posted by Ready, Aim, Hook Me at 5:25 AM 7 comments
 (Your comments are welcomed and highly encouraged. The author of this first paragraph submission is looking for all the constructive criticism they can receive to improve their opening hook.  Do you agree with us Hook'ers? Disagree? Were you hooked and would want to read more? Let this author know).

ORIGINAL SUBMISSION (Genre: Suspense Fiction):
Sam was feeling exceptionally well. He recalled his lunchtime conversation with his wife, Monica. She’d given him the evening’s schedule; they were celebrating their son Timothy’s birthday. While Sam went over the conversation, he performed the end of the day rituals. He grinned widely, thinking of how detailed his wife’s arranging of the evening would be. The entire evening sounded great. He mulled over how the whole family enjoyed these moments, as a family. Sam removed his work gloves as he made his way back to his truck. The kids would be smiling, hugging and kissing. The girls made such fuss over Tim.

Sam was feeling exceptionally well. (Can you show me this instead of telling me this?) He recalled his lunchtime conversation with his wife, Monica. She’d given him the evening’s schedule; they were celebrating their son Timothy’s birthday. While Sam went over the conversation, he performed the end of the day rituals. (What are these rituals? What's he doing? Small little details like that would allow the reader to connect with him.) He grinned widely (unnecessary--adverb), thinking of how detailed his wife’s arranging of the evening would be. The entire evening sounded great. (I don't know anything about the party to know if it sounds great or not--give me details. You're just telling me it is great. Show me instead.) He mulled over how the whole family enjoyed these moments, as a family. (you said the whole family enjoyed these moments. Adding "as a family" is redundant and unneeded) Sam removed his work gloves as he made his way back to his truck. The kids would be smiling, hugging and kissing. The girls made such fuss over Tim (who's Tim?).

I didn't connect with this character. I don't know much about him or his family to feel invested. I think it has a lot to do with "telling" me what happened and what is going to happen verses "showing me" what is taking place. At this point, without reading the rest of the page, I can almost bet you haven't started the story in the right place. I bet it comes a bit later--your true beginning. 

I would suggest reworking this paragraph, give me details, toss me into the story OR scan your story, look for the spot where the story really picks up. I think you're trying to add a bunch of characters too quickly, but it would be better to introduce them as the story unfolds, as your character talks to them and relates to them. 

Hope this feedback helped. 
~Angela Scott The Reluctant Hook'er
Sam was feeling exceptionally well. He recalled his lunchtime conversation with his wife, Monica. She’d given him the evening’s schedule; they were celebrating their son Timothy’s birthday. While Sam went over the conversation, he performed the end of the day rituals. He grinned widely, thinking of how detailed his wife’s arranging of the evening would be. The entire evening sounded great. He mulled over how the whole family enjoyed these moments, as a family. Sam removed his work gloves as he made his way back to his truck. The kids would be smiling, hugging and kissing. The girls made such fuss over Tim.  (This graph is all telling, which makes me feel distanced from this character. Show me a skip in his step or something that he was feeling well.  I don't think you're starting in the right place. Start with action, maybe the party? There was nothing about this graph that would propel me to read forward, that doesn't mean the rest of your story isn't great, but you want to hook us right away and keep us there through the end. Keep working on it. Best of luck) 

The Skeptical Hook'er. 
Kacey Mark: Coming to you live in technicolor pink!

It burns! It burns!

Sam was feeling exceptionally well. <Uh-oh. There's that "was" word. it tends to distance your reader. Lemme in there, Author. I want to plunge right into what's going on inside his head. I like his name, maybe I'll like him too but I haven't been given the chance yet.> He recalled <So he's a thinker. That's good. But if we are in his Point of view (POV), and we want to be,  we don't really need this. try to rephrase the sentence without it.> his lunchtime conversation with his wife, Monica.<Okay, another great character name but no glimpse of who she is besides the wifey. Which means that Sam is not the muscle-bound bachelor I thought he was. Well... I guess there's still hope for the muscles though. :-)> She’d given him the evening’s schedule; they were celebrating their son Timothy’s birthday. While Sam went over the conversation, he performed the end of the day rituals.<And what might those be? chopping down trees and throwing them over his shoulder with inhuman, muscle-bound strength? Or grooming Guinea pigs at the local Pet Smart? I think you know which one I'm rooting for.> He grinned widely <Ack! an "LY" word. it points at the possibility of telling (not showing) and the need for a stronger verb>, thinking of how detailed his wife’s arranging of the evening would be. The entire evening sounded great.<Ugh... *folds arms* Well I want to hear the details then. I'm not doing to deny my deep-rooted urge to meddle in other people's details. Isn't that what reading a good book is all about anyway?> He mulled over <There he is thinking again. *Pouts* I'm starting to get a not-so-Sam-The-Lumbar-jack vibe. Maybe he's more of a scholar?>how the whole family enjoyed these moments, as a family. Sam removed his work gloves <Oh! Gloves mean hard work right? Maybe I shouldn't revoke his stud card just yet>as he made his way back to his truck.<Truck! Score! I knew he was a real guy in there somewhere! Hormones rejoice! (until Monica shows up that is)> The kids would be smiling, hugging and kissing. The girls made such fuss over Tim.

I'm sorry to make a mess of your first paragraph by hosing it down with girly-hormone pink, but I just couldn't help myself. There seems to be too much distance between your character and your readers. A distance that can do one of two things given the reader's personality: 

One, let them run wild with their imagination until you finally reign them in with the possible threat of disappointment, 

Or two, bore them because they just can't get into your characters.

Set up your characters at the very beginning with a clear image and get deep into their POV before the reader forms the wrong impression.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Have you edited the fat rolls and freckled bums out of your manuscript?

Posted by Ready, Aim, Hook Me at 5:48 AM 3 comments
My Editing Song: “Editing sucks. It really, really sucks. I hate it. It blows. Did I already say it sucks? I did. But let me say it again. Editing sucks. It suuuuuccccckkkksss!”

*And now I bend at the waist and take a bow*

Editing is not fun. Not by a long shot. I’d much rather write—so freeing, so creative. I LOVE the creative process of writing. I love it when my characters come alive on the paper and they feel like real people, people I care a whole lot about and don’t want to kill off no matter how much it is necessary to the story. When I’m writing, and my fingers are flying over the key board, I feel so ALIVE! Such joy.

Editing, on the other hand, is the equivalent to having my knuckles smacked with yard stick while my eyes are being jabbed with the pokey end of a wiener dog. (Just so you know, I posted this sentence on twitter with a fill in the blank. Sharp end of a . . . And I got responses like bowling ball, spork, dry spaghetti, Cinderella Pen, waffle, pencil. But the best one by far was wiener dog. I chose that one as the winner). 

But we HAVE to do it. Just like paying taxes and dying. We don’t have a choice. Okay, technically, we don’t have to pay taxes, but jail doesn’t seem fun at all. AND technically, we don’t have to edit. We can leave it as is, but BOY you’ll look like an idiot if you choose not to. That doesn’t seem fun at all either—it's just like standing naked in front of the whole world while they mock your fat rolls and freckled bum (that’s what the over use of the words “just”, “was”, “as well”, passive voice, and adverbs are—fat rolls and freckled bums. Yuck. Edit those out of there). 

Death you can’t get around. You will die. Sorry. Death is a stickler that way—stupid death. 

Soooooo . . . Can anyone guess what I’ve been up to for the past 72+ hours? Yeah, that’s right. Editing away the fat rolls and freckled bums from my zombie western romance. You heard me. Zombie. Western. Romance. Yep. That’s what I’ve been doing since last Saturday. Non-stop.

Editing blows. I mean, I get it. I understand its purpose and the necessity of doing it—I want my stuff to be top notch. But it’s no fun. No fun at all. That doesn’t mean I’ve got to like it, right? I’m allowed to hate the process. 

I’ve been going back through my manuscript, fixing goofball mistakes, and editing the suggestions given to me by my amazing critique partners and I wonder, “Why couldn’t I have just written it right the first time? What is wrong with me? Ugh! I’m stupid. I'm the worst writer ever!” 

And then I remember Hemingway said: The first draft of anything is [crap]. And just so you know, the second version isn't usually much better. The third is on it's way, but usually by the sixth or seventh revision, you've at least been handed a towel to cover your fat rolls and freckled bum. You feel pretty good about yourself and you even feel like waving at the crowd.

I'm not quite there yet. Couple more revisions to go before I feel like waving.

I know I shouldn’t to use the word “just” over and over and over again, and yet, there it is . . . all 257 of them. What the heck? And let’s not forget the wonderful word “looked.” My characters look at things ALL the time—he looked at her, she looked at him, they looked at each other. *palm smack to the forehead*

All I can say is this, despite the fact I hate the editing process, I would NEVER, EVER, EVER, NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS, publish something I hadn’t edited the heck out of. Ever. It’s a necessary evil. 

I still hate it though.

How about you? Do like your knuckles smacked with a ruler while your eyes are being jabbed with the pokey end of a wiener dog?

~The Reluctant Hook'er (Angela Scott)

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